Scott Nelson went to work every day with Sycamore assistant coach Ryan Picolotti.
He drilled one-on-one against Sycamore’s other post players and practiced his offensive moves over and over, eventually developing a jump hook that few in the area could defend.
By the second half of his senior season Nelson emerged as one of the best all-around players in the area, his offense having finally caught up with the defense that was always there.
“When Scott played well, we obviously played much better as a team and were a much harder team to play against,” Sycamore coach Andrew Stacy said. “We were a different team when we were getting that production inside out of him than when we weren’t.”
With Nelson’s development, the Spartans used a late-season hot streak to capture their first regional championship since 2004 and finished the season at 19-11. Sycamore registered a mere five wins when Nelson joined the varsity team as a sophomore and only won nine games last year.
For his individual statistics and team accomplishments, Nelson has been named the Daily Chronicle Boys Basketball Player of the Year. Sycamore junior wing Devin Mottet and Hinckley-Big Rock senior point guard Bernie Conley also received consideration for the award.
Nelson is joined on the All-Area first team by Mottet, Conley, Kaneland senior center Matt Limbrunner and Genoa-Kingston senior forward Adam Price.
Nelson averaged 9.4 points and 4.3 rebounds a game for the Spartans, shooting better than 54 percent from the field. He also led the team in offensive rebounds at almost two a game.
“On offense, we turned it more towards getting it into the post,” Nelson said. “We’ve gotten a lot more opportunities to do separate work in the post. That really helped me grow.”
Nelson stood out down the stretch, recording a team-high 16 points in Sycamore’s 55-32 win over DeKalb to snap an 11-game losing streak in the rivalry. He also scored eight consecutive third-quarter points against Hampshire in the regional final, catalyzing a run that would give Sycamore the lead for good.
“We were able to benefit from getting the ball inside to him and [Mottet],” Stacy said. “To have that post presence inside, teams have to recognize that and eventually have to double team. Scott’s very unselfish and would kick the ball out; it made us a a much more balanced team.”
Sycamore was equally efficient on defense, holding opponents to 37.5 percent shooting for the season. With Nelson anchoring the middle, there were never many quality looks in the paint.
Nelson was one of only two players left from the Sycamore team that finished the 2010-11 season with just five wins, making this year’s success even more meaningful.
“The turnaround for us was pretty impactful, especially in my senior year,” Nelson said. “That was a huge turnaround. I really wasn’t expecting such a great year, especially after the past two years.”